tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC July 8, 2012 4:30pm-5:00pm PDT
>> this is "the chris matthews show". >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> take down this wall. >> i can hear you. >> the time for change has come! chris: leap of faith, four years ago, barack obama was the breakthrough candidate. mitt romney's mormon religion could be a threshold issue this time, but does it matter? of the 20% who resist romney over religion, how many will actually vote for barack obama? a newly discovered interview with jack kennedy about his religion shows him predicting the one day election of a mormon. and finally, victims, it's the anniversary of the lowest number in stock market history. it swept hoover out. what are the chanceses of another rip tide like that. hi, i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us today, john harris, katty kay, s.e. cupp and joe
klein. first up, the election will turn on the economy, of course, more on that later in the show. but also in play is how voters size up their comfort level with romney and obama. enough were decided to be comfortable with a president barack obama. they will face that decision again this november. on the same comfort scale, if you will, they size up mitt romney. one factor for some voters is romney's mormon religion, 36% of voters say the mormon religion is not christian. and pollsters say that probably indicates a bias against voting for a mormon. in polls this spring, about 15% of voters said they would definitely rule out voting for him because he is a mormon. back in 1928, of course, the first catholic running for president, new york governor al smith, was soundly defeated. cartoons like this, there it is, showing him bowing to the pope were considered acceptable. well, jack kennedy's religion was much discussed when he
considered running for president, but kennedy was optimistic that things had changed since al smith's run in 1928. >> do you think that our country has changed since 1928? >> there are greater comprehension. there was a great objection to the senator from the utah because he was a mormon. well, today, that question would never come up. chris: there he is looking to the future with his usual vision, jack kennedy. obviously, just to set the table here in this program today, the constitution sets no religious test nor should it for religion for running for president. we have polls with the facts that come out. 1/3 of the people say that a mormon is not a christian. 1/6 of the people say they will not vote for romney under any circumstances. is this going to be a real factor? >> it might be a little bit of a factor, but i don't trust those polls all that much. when it comes down to it, i mean, at this point in 1992, i think 40% of the american people
said they wouldn't vote for bill clinton because of his draft dodging and adultery. i mean, that changes when you actually have to go into the ballot box. the fact that we have a mormon running against an african-american whose middle name is hussein is one of the things i love most about this country. chris: let's talk about the particular group, i don't know if anybody here represents the group, evangelicals who have this pronounced objection to normonism. >> some of them do. chris: tell me about it. >> some do, others don't. in many cases, it's fear of the other. in many caseses the people we're talking about live in small towns that are predominantly white. they're really afraid of what is happening in this country. they see the local mini mart being owned by someone from south ace. there are mexicans all over the place. their grandchildren are becoming gay or dating people of other races. the idea that we would have a normon as president -- >> what is interesting is that
people, while they grandly refuse to admit racial prejudice today because people just refuse, it's not acceptable, they're quite willing to tell pollsters, even squeaky clean liberal pollsters, i don't think mormons are christians. they'll say it, which makes it interesting. >> it shows that mormonism is slightly different than from the other minority groups, african-americans, hispanics, whatever it is. they see this as an issue of faith. it's a black and whitish for some people, whether mormons they see are christian or not christian. i agree with joe. it's going to come down to a choice between whether they want to elect mitt romney for the next four years and get a republican back into the white house, even if he is a mormon, or whether they're going to stay home, not mobilize, not get out the vote and risk the prospect of barack obama. i suspect actually with mitt romney, a lot of people that say they don't want to vote for him on the evangelical side, it might be be on him flip-flopping
on issues as much as mormonism. chris: romney has come off a bit odd in a different ways. his sense of humor is definitely somewhere out there for some people. politico, your organization has written in the past is there a sense of him being weird. that can be played upon and may catch on to his religion as well as part of the weirdness about the guy. he comes from a different background from us, from other people. how do you think it's going to play, john harris? >> i don't think romney is weird, but he has lived a life that is removed from the experiences and the sort of outlook of many americans. it's been removed because of his wealth -- chris: let me give you an example of weird. when you think it's a funny joke that somebody has grabbed your tush from behind you go jumping out as if someone has done that. >> square. he comes off as square and something of out of a different
generation. i think the mormonism plays into this, chris, people wonder with mitt romney, what is his core? what animates this guy? what quickens his pulse? a lot does lie in in his religious faith. it's very important to him. he and his campaign have not been comfortable talking about this because they don't particularly want to shine away in the nominating contest shine on mormonism and what it means to him. let's face it, religion is for many politicians, it's not something that is central at least least to their public life. in romney's case, it's totally central to who he is and what motivates him. he has to find a way that he is comfortable and explain that people can relate to. >> it's being different. >> we got to say at this point that mormons as a group are
unbelievableably kind it decent, induce industries, intelligent, all you have to do is ask harry reid why he chose to become a mormon, because he was living with a family, a mormon family who were just so kind and decent. we just have to -- chris: i get involved in the whole public affairs in politics working for a mormon senator from utah, frank ross. my wife works for a mormon, i know all about the good parts. yet is the politics and whether it's going to cut among evangelicals and the positive part, s.e., get in there. this whole thing is focused because it's the first. you just never know how people are going to react to the first of anything. >> first of all, race or religion are a little incomparable. religion requires intolerance. it requires you to say i believe this and not this. this is right. that is wrong. that doesn't exist in race. so i think some of what you might call prejudice or by got
ri is unnecessary intolerance. second, chesterton said the test of any good religion is whether you can make fun of it or not. normonism has come into its own in the pop culture whether you're looking at the book of mormon, big love. mormonism as uneasy as america may have been about it in the past, i think it's having a pretty good day this year in pop culture. mormons are kind of everywhere. so i don't know that it's as inpen practiceable and clandestine as it used to be. chris: we watch mitt romney, he can't seem to win the deep south. a contested primary, four years ago, every single state, tennessee or oklahoma or georgia, people of lesser caliber are beating him down there. people like newt and santorum were beating him every single time. >> they're not particularly comfortable with him, they're
not particularly comfortable of him as we know because of the religion and his positions on socially conservative issues. the equation changes fundamentally come november when the person they have to choose between, mitt romney or barack obama. >> the mormons and independents in missouri are locked up for the mormons in salt lake city, utah. chris: that's a different group, right? >> it's hard to -- chris: let's get to the politics. will the barack obama people secretly or openly or in any way play this card, john harris? >> no, i don't think they will. chris: we talked about the weirdness thing and -- >> they're happy to make him look like he is of a different generation, that he is something out of "mad men" as they say in the campaign. no, they won't play on this. there is a reason we have to be blunt about this. america was founded on religious pluralism. this runs fundamentally counter to america traditions.
this should be radio active. people view religion as a matter of right or wrong in their private steers. but when people try to inject it into the public, it should be explored by bringing this up. chris: you tell me, you're making the point they came to this table today. a liberal democrat never came up. harry reid is a mormon, never comes up politically. george romney, the first romney to run for president never comes up. we live in a world where inventory jells are hugely important and they have a vote that counts in the republican party. if it's up against barack obama, maybe it's neutralized, is that what we're all saying? >> i'm not saying it shouldn't come up, no threshold for running for office. i have never lived in a government where religion is as important to political life as in this country. christianity is important. you can't run for president in this country and say you're an
atheist. >> it's very recent that these religion -- >> do the nitty-gritty politics, chris, add what helped him run up his totals in nevada and in an election con committeesest test. chris: we mentioned al smith. he stepped into a photo-op that backfired. he is posing with a gaggle, a flock of cardinals and bishops there, probably forgetting the anti-catholic element would use it against him. this shot was everywhere during smith's campaign. it didn't help. it reminded us of some other unforgivable decisions to do photo-ops. here what another new york governor with cavemen in oregon, campaigning, i said camping out, that's what it looked like. that got some play around the world. dick nixon was told it would help humanize himself by posing for a walk on the beach at his california home. nixon's idea of a walk on a
beach included wearing winged-tipped shoes. that is nixon for you. and he did that himself, that tank photo-op. john kerry, two problematic poses, one at the kennedy space center and the desperate october duck hunting scene. this played for the gun vote. he looked like a guy who sent his camel out into the french laundry. here is anothera o'donnell reporting on how the bushies reported on that one. check out karl rove. >> on halloween night, the press was treated to a twick by the top advisors. vice president chaney who has hammered kerry for months delivered a final jab. >> in my opinion, john kerry's goose is cooked. >> when you give chaney the punchline, you know you're in trouble. when we come back, barack obama owns this economy. this team has said so he owns the economy.
chris: welcome back. 80 years ago the dow jones hit its lowest level after the crash. her better hoover was swept out of office, f.d.r. swept in. hoover was held responsible, well voters decide to hold barack obama responsible in a hoover way? obama's big cam feign brain has conceded the president owns this economy. >> so the person who is least satisfied with where the economy is president obama. >> he owns it, would you agree with that, he owns this economy? >> of course, he does. >> matt lauer nailed him into that coffin. my question, does david wish he had that to take back, the president owns this economy? >> it doesn't matter what he says. it matters what the american think. clearly the american people are looking forward and they're not looking backwards.
there is some justification for the fact that a previous president got the economy into this mess, but that is irrelevant in terms of the president's re-election prospects. he has to provide a vision for the future for america. chris: the president has to cover for the fact that he had six months walking into office, the first six months of his presidency which were terrible due to what he inherited, but he has to explain it, all of it. >> he made a fundamental miss calculation at the beginning of his presidency and his own people, his former economic advisors talks about this. they assumed the economy was like a v, straight down but then would bounce back. chris: like under reagan. >> what it is an l, down and plateaued. if they know how long it would take for the economy to recover robustly, it would have changed how they talked about the economy and i believe it would have also affected the substantive agenda. probably would have knocked some things off to maintain a
sustained consistent focus on the economy. >> they came in thinking if you remember that they could do everything, not just health care, but also cap and trade and a whole bunch of others. chris: the business would be resilient. the problem for the president, of course, going back to what i said a moment ago, when he came into office, the economy hadn't bottomed yet. it was going down towards the bottom and unlike roosevelt who came in clean as a whistle, everything was term when he came in, obama came in while it was getting worse and he has to explain that. >> katty is right, voters have to look forward. where are you taking us and how are we going to get there? the president is in an unenviable position right now. he can't say vote for me because aren't things great right now. he has to say, vote for me, things are getting better. that's a tougher sell. when someone out in duluth is spending $4 on gas and last year they were spending $3 on gas, it doesn't feel like things are getting better. he has to ask for this leap of
faith and that's not easy to come by. >> the other thing is that we tend to look at this in terms of jobs figures and economic growth figures, but when you got out into the middle of the country, there is a phenomenon that has never existed before in human history, which is how is this being underwater? people are paying mortgages that are worth more than their homes and that tends to really upset them tremendously. >> how can obama turn this around? what is he going to do here? the numbers stay where they're at, job growth not up to par, what does he do? >> he makes the chief alternative, an unacceptable alternative in people's minds. he makes him radioactive that george w bush running with a weak economy made kerry unacceptable. chris: i heard this before, a rerun of 2004, go after the other guy. >> you make it a choice. it's no longer about barack obama, what they would like to make it. >> they make it not about the incumbent but about the choice.
>> they're saying this is bush on steroids, they're drawing that parallel? >> can they get away with that? >> they can. we haven't created enough jobs. this guy talks about firing people. >> when we come back, "scoops and predictions" right from the notebooks of these top re here you go little man. [ humming ] [ babbling ] the cheerios bandit got you again? [ both laugh ] ♪ the one and only, cheerios
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for the next four years. john. >> romney has a problem if he is not the person. the challenger has the luxury of specificity because he doesn't have a record to run on. chris: most likely romney will do it. >> yes. >> romney has to lay out what he is going to do in the budget and the country and the economy. he hasn't done it yet. >> in addition to those hypotheticals if i were president here is what i would do, he is in a uniquely good position to say here is how i will dismantle all of the policies that republicans don't like that obama asserted. that's a real blueprint that he has to work on that is grounded in fact and not future hypotheticals. >> it will be romney. there is a real challenge here for obama, too. the way he has governed so far is to lay back, let other people make the proposals and then try and do the final negotiations. it's one of the least successful aspects of his presidency. so he has to lay out in much more clear terms than he has so
far what he wants to do in the next four years. chris: he has a challenge, too. when we come back, the big question of the week for us, the summer of 1972, 40 years ago the watergate break-in, the massacre of israeli athletes at the houstonnish olympics, we were wearing mutton chop side burns and bell bottoms. these sweet honey clustery things have fiber?
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chris: welcome back. 340 years ago the summer of 1972, the watergate break-in, the massacre of israeli athletes at the munich olympics, the mcgovern campaign and a lot of bad clothes. this week's big question -- what is the lasting effect from the summer of 1972. john harris, the cultural question this week. >> i think the emergence of institution press power which had its hey day in 1972 and 20 years after. we see its sun set.
chris: watergate. >> and what the washington folks did and the institutional media generally, cbs, "new york times." chris: "time magazine." >> we represent the diffusion of press power. chris: katty kay, 1972. >> i'm so glad it wasn't the bell bottoms and the side burns. on american culture and psyche, watergate, the impact that that had and the lack of trust. >> three for watergate. i mean whether you're thinking erin or julian, the long term implications are huge. people forget just a year earlier, 1971, danielle released the pentagon papers. chris: name the one watergate reform that is still in place? >> the what? chris: it's eroded. >> i'm with the munich olympics. the terrorists seized control of the entire world's media. after that, it became possible
for someone like osama bin laden to think i could do something really dramatic that the entire world is going to watch. i think that there are a lot of dead people over the last 40 years because of the munich olympics. chris: the combination of terrorism and media. well said. thanks for a great roundtable, john harris, katty kay, welcome s.e. cupp to the show and joe klein. thanks for watching and see you back here next week. ♪ [ male announcer ] for our families... our neighbors... and our communities... america's beverage companies have created a wide range of new choices. developing smaller portion sizes and more low- & no-calorie beverages... adding clear calorie labels so you know exactly what you're choosing... and in schools, replacing full-calorie soft drinks with lower-calorie options. with more choices and fewer calories,